Rivals of Ixalan 2HG Hidden Gems

BUILDING WITH RIVALS

With more beasts and vagabonds questing for the Immortal Sun in Rivals of Ixalan you shouldn’t set out on your own… grab a friend and battle together! Take on a Two-Headed Giant prerelease with a teammate for double the fun and glory. Share your sealed pool with a friend and build the best two decks to try and claim the city’s blessing. With more cards to use, Two-Headed Giant decks will generally be stronger than their single-pool counterparts – craft yours accordingly! Here are a few tips to help guide you toward this format’s HIDDEN GEMS.

  • Evasion: With more creatures in play, board stalls can happen very quickly. Evasive creatures are critical! Flying is critical both on offense and defense. Even creatures like Soul of the Rapids and Spire Winder are quite reasonable threats since there is only one creature with reach in Rivals of Ixalan (Zacama, Primal Calamity at mythic rare) and only two from Ixalan. Also keep an eye out for several creatures in the set that can’t be blocked like Slippery Scoundrel and Storm Fleet Sprinter. On the other hand, creatures with menace like Goblin Trailblazer tend to be much worse with twice as many potential blockers.
  • Countermagic: Being able to shut down an enemy spell is twice as likely to happen with two spell-casting opponents. With stronger decks there are more must-answer bombs overall and the risk of devoting a turn to counter an enemy spell is less problematic when your teammate helps advance the board. Even situational counterspells like Hornswoggle and Negate find their targets more often.
  • Situational Answers: Cards that only interact with specific card or creature types are normally relegated to the sideboard but with two opponents they’re more likely to have a target. Remember that matches just one game – you won’t have a chance to grab a silver bullet after seeing what you’re facing! Look for versatile cards that answer multiple threat types. Consider packing a Naturalize or Cleansing Ray to neutralize an enemy Waterknot, Luminous Bond or Baffling End.
  • Synergy: The larger shared pool means decks can be more synergy-based than when you’re on your own. Check to see if you have enough cards to support one of the set’s archetypes. Remember to check for that sneaky text, “you control” – many of the tribal cards in Rivals of Ixalan only impact your own creatures.

 

Quick Tips

  • Play or draw: In 2HG sealed it’s often correct to choose to draw if your decks aren’t incredibly aggressive. Drawing two extra cards on your first turn can be a significant advantage if you’re planning for a longer game.
    Mulligan: Each player has one ‘free’ mulligan. Use it aggressively! If you have a sub-par hand, pitch it back and try again. It’s not worth risking a mediocre opening seven.

BETTER WITH FRIENDS

The Value of Versatility: As we mentioned earlier, 2HG matches are best of one. You want as many of your cards as possible to be efficient and flexible. That doesn’t only mean packing cards that answer different threats; it can also mean engaging with your teammate.

  • Utility: Abilities and spells that aren’t limited to your own creatures are often critical to undoing a bind or creating opportunity for attacks. Cards like Aquatic Incursion, Jadecraft Artisan, Forerunner of the Legion and Bishop of Binding are examples of abilities that may be used for your teammate’s benefit (and ultimately, yours!). Also notice that Induced Amnesia can be used on any player. It can be used to muddle with an opponent, recycle a teammate’s hand or provide a personal Windfall.
  • Combat Tricks: Instant-speed spells that don’t specify creatures “you control” can be great at fouling up combat math for the opponent. Watch for (and watch out for) common and uncommon tricks like Aggressive Urge, Buccaneer’s Bravado, Expel From Orazca, Moment of Triumph and Sea Legs. Rares like Release to the Wind can also strike when you least expect them.
  • Suit Up: Pay attention to restrictions on your auras and enchantments. Many of them can be used to support either your teammate’s creatures or mess with your opponents.
    • Squire’s Devotion grants you the Vampire token regardless of which creature gets the aura.
    • Tilonali’s Crown is either a 1 damage spell for picking off small foes or an enrage-triggering Rancor look-alike. Having options makes this card a sweet inclusion in most decks.
    • Baffling End is indeed baffling. Oddly, the target opponent who creates a Dinosaur token when this leaves play doesn’t have to be the same one whose creature was exiled. Nab a small, value target with the front end and give the 3/3 to your least prepared foe when it’s removed.

BETTER WITH ENEMIES

Some cards benefit from the Two-Headed Giant format either through additional life, more creatures or simply more options. Here are some notable cards to be aware of:

  • Arterial Flow – This card will be devastating whether or not you control a Vampire as you cast it. Spending one card to put the opposing team down four cards (!) with a potential six life swing is obscene value. So there is no uncertainty, you should play this card.
  • Forerunner of the Coalition – Tutoring up another Pirate is good value, especially when it comes attached with 2 life lost for your opponent. This is the most exciting of the Forerunner cycle for 2HG, netting repeatable life loss for simply filling the board with pirates… which you were probably doing anyway.
  • Forerunner of the Empire – This card can wreak havoc on a board, especially if you can trigger it twice in a turn. It also has that all-important word, “may,” meaning that you can avoid burning out your own creatures if necessary.
  • Gruesome Fate – This card will be incredibly swingy. Expect as many instances of doming the opposing team for 12+ life as games where it is stuck, useless, in hand. Just know that it hits each opponent.
  • Shake the Foundations – This card can find many more small creatures to destroy on a larger board. Also remember to use it post-combat for some surprise removal. Plus, it’s a cantrip!
  • Crafty Cutpurse – Likely less frequent, but be aware that this takes all tokens from any opponent that creates them during that turn. I imagine it’d be difficult to manufacture such a scenario, but it’s worth knowing.
  • Protean Raider – More creatures on board means more choices for your clone effect. Other times, you just need a pirate!

NOT-SO-HIDDEN GEMS

Since there are several, I’m going to rattle of a few other rare and mythic rare cards that you’ll be thrilled to open with your 2HG partner.

  • Azor’s GatewayThis is quite strong if you have ways to use your mana. On average, you’ll be able to make 50% more mana than in single player games once you get it flipped thanks to your higher life total and your teammate can help prolong the game until you get there.
  • Elenda, the Dusk RoseWith four players, double the amount of possible ‘another creature dies’ triggers. Tasty!
  • Etali, Primal Storm – Friendly reminder: this is an attack trigger – it doesn’t even need to make contact. Just swing away and cast up to four spells for free!
  • Golden DemiseA potentially one-sided Infest doesn’t need much salesmanship does it?
  • Nezahal, Primal TideThe card drawing ability triggers whenever any opponent casts a noncreature spell. Stock up!
  • Path of Mettle // Metzali, Tower of TriumphSign me up for a token-wiping enchantment that turns into a repeatable Scorching Missile (thanks to dealing 2 damage to each opponent) or chaotic Divine Verdict. Make sure you can reliably transform this and it will perform for you!
  • Silverclad FerocidonsSimply put, multiple opportunities to have each opponent sacrifice a permanent is incredibly powerful.
  • Storm the Vault // Vault of Catlacan – If you attack with multiple creatures, you can have them deal damage to different ‘heads’ and have Storm the Vault trigger twice.
  • Twilight Prophet – As if Dark Confidant’s ability needed improvement… You only gain life equal to the revealed card’s CMC but you sap the other team for twice that and draw a card.
  • Vona’s Hunger – If each player sacrificing one creature is good, why not round it up to half of them?
  • Angrath, the Flame-ChainedThe +1 ability impacts each opponent, netting two discards and a loss of 4 life. Additionally, if you’re fortunate enough to activate the -8 ability, it’s as devastating as you’d imagine.

HIDDEN DUDS

These are the cards that suffer the most from the multiplayer format. While you may find exceptions that make them work for you, be aware that they are inconvenient at best and disastrous for you in most other cases.

  • Curious Obsession, See Red – These cards demand a highly evasive creature and their practicality greatly diminishes in long games with more frequent board stalls. Short of an unblockable creature, enchanted creatures will very likely find an adversary in combat. Additionally, if you (not your teammate) don’t attack with a creature each turn, these fall off.
  • Relentless RaptorWhile a strong card on its surface, being required to attack and block each turn makes it likely that this will charge into combat unprofitably… recklessly one might say. Beyond early game, this card’s value diminishes significantly with more creatures on board.
  • Kumena’s Awakening – Giving your enemies cards on your turn is not what you want to be doing in 2HG. Granted, some of the loss is mitigated by your teammate drawing, but unless you’re the only one benefiting each turn this card is just as likely to fuel your opponent’s progress as your own.
  • Form of the Dinosaur – Bravery and stupidity are often indistinguishable. With twice as many creatures facing down your two-headed dino self, this is almost certainly the latter.
  • Blazing Hope – With a higher shared life total, this will almost never find a target.
  • Paladin of Atonement – The biggest loser here. Since the opposing team chooses which player is losing life through combat damage they just won’t choose this card’s controller and it becomes essentially unplayable.

TOP 10

These are the cards I feel get the biggest boost from being in a multiplayer environment, not necessarily my top picks overall. You should still prioritize solid removal and efficient creatures but I would personally value these cards and others like them highly.

Top 5 Common/Uncommon picks

  1. Arterial Flow
  2. Gruesome Fate
  3. Slippery Scoundrel
  4. Forerunner of the Coalition
  5. Thrashing Brontodon

Top 5 Rare/Mythic Rare picks

  1. Etali, Primal Storm
  2. Twilight Prophet
  3. Angrath, the Flame-Chained
  4. Vona’s Hunger
  5. Elenda, the Dusk Rose

We’ve made it to the end of our voyage together! Was this helpful? Did I miss any cards you thought should be mentioned? Did you take down your own 2HG prerelease? Let me know in the comments and may good fortune follow you until we meet next spoiler season!

Kade Goforth is a L2 Judge from Oklahoma.

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4 thoughts on “Rivals of Ixalan 2HG Hidden Gems

  1. I went up against a Paladin of Atonement at a prerelease and I tried to cite this blog to show we could just deal combat damage to the other head to prevent it from gaining counters, but the local judge disagreed and said it gains counters regardless because life loss applies to the whole team. Can you cite a rule to show this isn’t the case?

    1. Sorry to hear that. Perhaps it could help if we add ruling numbers to the FAQ?

      810.9 Damage, loss of life, and gaining life happen to each player individually. The result is applied to the team’s shared life total.

      1. Great, thank you! I don’t think you need to add ruling numbers to everything, it’s usually pretty intuitive. But things that involve combat damage, life loss, etc. can sometimes be pretty muddy, especially if the presiding judge isn’t familiar with 2HG.

        1. Thanks for your feedback! We’ll keep that in mind for future posts – we didn’t want to get lost in the weeds citing minutia but I can see where some references could be helpful.

          CR 810.7f also helps address this:
          “[…] If an attacking creature would assign combat damage to the defending team, the active team chooses only one of the defending players for that creature to assign its combat damage to. […]”

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